HE is known as the joker in the pack.
Someone more likely to be found devising practical jokes rather than tactical innovations or defensive drills.
But Rob Kozluk, the former Sheffield United and Port Vale full-back, is deadly serious about his football and, speaking as the two clubs prepare to lock horns in the second round of the FA Cup, revealed he still has unfinished business with the game.
“I’d like to think that I’m not retired,” Kozluk told The Star. “The reason being that I still feel as if I’ve got plenty to give.
“I’m in good shape because I go out on a road bike most days, look after myself and had a spell with Chesterfield earlier this month to help improve my fitness even more.
“It was an opportunity I’m really grateful for and was certainly very beneficial.”
Kozluk, aged 35, has been unattached since parting company with Bradford City in May.
Nevertheless, he boasts a wealth of experience having amassed nearly 250 appearances during two spells with United before following Micky Adams to Staffordshire in September last year.
whose brief but tumultuous spell in charge at Bramall Lane ended in relegation from the Championship 19 months ago, has repaired any perceived damage caused to his reputation by guiding tomorrow’s visitors to second in the League Two table.
With debutant Calvin Andrew set to partner the prolific Tom Pope in attack, Vale have a wealth of talent at their disposal.
Nevertheless United, fourth in League One, enter the tie confident of reaching the next phase themselves, with Nick Blackman searching for his 11th of the campaign and Shaun Miller also in a rich vein of form.
Danny Wilson, Adams’ successor, must grapple with the problem of who replaces suspended midfielder Kevin McDonald.
But, acknowledging “the dynamics” of his team might change, Wilson insisted during yesterday’s media briefing that “whoever comes in is going to be capable of doing an absolutely sterling job”.
Kozluk added: “I’ve got the utmost respect for both
teams and both managers. This is a game that’s going to mean a lot to both sides.
“Port Vale will be up for it and although Micky Adams is a Blade he’ll want to dump United out of the cup.
“Make no mistake about that.
“Don’t underestimate Port Vale. They’ve got quality and not only in Tom Pope who a few weeks ago was on Sky TV being compared to Lionel Messi.
“I’ve been out with Popey and if I compared him to anyone it would be Lionel’s brother, ‘Very’.
“Seriously, though, I’ve got some great friends in both squads and so I hope it’s going to be a good game.”
Despite still possessing the mischievous streak which once prompted Neil Warnock to describe him as “a great addition to any dressing room”, Kozluk has prospered under managers as diverse as Simon Davey, Mark Robins and Steve Bruce, which is testament to his professionalism.
Working for the likes of Warnock and Peter Taylor, his coach for England under-21s, has pricked Kozluk’s interest in carving a career in the dug-out should the opportunity arise.
“I’ve been looking into the coaching scene too with Andy Todd who used to be at Blackburn,” he said.
“We’ve been in and done some work at a few schools and with various different teams.
“We’ve both been raised in an era where respect, manners and politeness came into play on and off the field.
“An era when an apprenticeship in football not only set you up for a career in the sport but also taught you about life.
“So, if I do go down that route I’d want to work with kids who wanted to and were serious about trying to improve. I know I’ve always been regarded as a joker but there’s a time and a place for that. The training pitch isn’t one of them.”
Kozluk played seven times for Vale before switching to Valley Parade.
“I feel I’ve picked up a lot of good ideas from the managers I’ve worked with,” he said. “There have been some fantastic people I’ve met and people who have taught me some valuable lessons. The most important one is ‘treat people how you’d like to be treated yourself’.’
“If you stick to that then you won’t go far wrong, no matter what business you are in.”